Easy & Healthy Snacking with Iron-Rich Brownie Balls from Snack-Girl

Finding healthy, delicious AND quick snacks that appeal to everyone in the family isn’t always an easy task. When you add “gluten and casein free” to the list of snack requirements, the choices can seem pretty scanty, especially if you are just getting started on the path of gluten-free living. Many gluten-free sweet snacks require baking or a bit of effort in the kitchen and time. At least for me– time is pretty minimal most days. While in my mind, I envision meeting my kids at the door with a plate of warm cookies (sans wheat and dairy, of course) and a completely clean, peaceful house – the reality is often a few frantic minutes scratching my head, peering into the  cluttered fridge, wondering how to concoct something edible in five minutes before the children come clamoring in. 

I turned to Lisa Cain, my new friend, who is a culinary scientist and nutrititional guru, for advice.

Some of you might know Lisa  from her amazing and inspirational website, “Snack-Girl.com,”  – the mecca of spots on the net for healthy, believable and easy-to-do snack foods. What sets Snack-Girl apart, is the combination of  Lisa’s professional background as a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and her down-to-earth personality. Her yummy food stuff is the product of the science of nutrition, and  is overflowing with warm, upbeat details. Cain describes herself as “an avid snacker” and her zeal for nutritious snack-food stuff shines through with each blog post.

Lisa regards snacks as “mini-meals,” hence her recipes aren’t the typical, “chips and dip” or “Twinkie” fare most American’s regard as snacking.  Conceivably, you could consume a diet solely of Snack-Girl food and be healthier than average. Don’t forget after reading this post to sign up for the Snack-Girl newsletter and let the reinventing of “snacks-as-healthy-foodstuff” continue in your life daily.  While not a “gluten-free” website per se, Snack-Girl has an ample amount of items you can glean or make simple substitutions to incorporate into a GF and dairy-free diet.

The recipe below, takes (seriously) 10 minutes to throw together, doesn’t require baking and is low-calorie, as well as chock full of goodness for gluten-free folk. Many gluten-free individuals are low on iron due to malabsorption problems and a diet without enriched grains. Dates — the  key ingredient in Snack-Girls’s  “Brownie Balls”– are chock full of iron, topping even the iron content of a 3.5 ounce serving of beef. (A cup of dates has 5.3 mg of iron, compared to 2.6 mg in the average cut of beef)  Brownie balls add a healthy dose of iron, and by taking most of their sweetness from dates, only contain a scant amount of added sweetening.

My kids went through 2 batches the first day we made these. With a mere 5 healthy ingredients, you can easily feel like “Mother of the Year” every day. (PS, also a VEGAN recipe with an easy substitution)

Brownie Balls? What’s not to love with a name like that? Here’s what Lisa Cain– AKA Snack-Girl– has to say:

Is it possible to create a gluten-free healthy brownie? A regular brownie contains oodles of butter, sugar, eggs, and chocolate. They are a confection of MEGA calorific proportions and should be eaten as a treat. But, if you have a food processor, you can whip something up in minutes that tastes delicious. The key is to use healthy replacements for the butter, eggs, flour, and sugar. In this recipe, which I created in my test kitchen (ahem, my kitchen), I used dates and almonds. You can find dates next to the raisins in most grocery stores (I bet you haven’t even noticed them).

Roasted almonds are just one choice for this recipe. You could use raw nuts or any kind of nut that you like. I used roasted because roasting makes the almond taste stronger. I rolled these balls in confectioner’s sugar and cocoa. My tasters (friends) thought that the cocoa ones were too bitter. I actually liked them better, so give them both a try. You can add more honey if you find these lacking in sweetness. These would be a great party snack too! You can make them ahead and just artfully arrange them on a plate. Or do what I did, and just put them on a plate 🙂 Kids will also love  making these as they get to use their hands in making them. They come out of the food processor the same consistency as play dough. To make these brownie balls vegan – use maple syrup or agave syrup.

Gluten Free Brownie Balls

(15 balls)
15 pitted dates
2/3 cup cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting)
1 cup roasted almonds (no salt added)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons water
confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Add almonds to food processor and pulse until ground. Add dates, cocoa powder, honey, and water. Mix until it just forms a sticky mass. Wash hands and attempt to make a ball with the dough (it may need more water to get to the perfect consistency). Put a tablespoon of cocoa or confectioner’s sugar on a plate. Roll balls in your hand and then roll in sugar or cocoa (or both). Eat! These can be store in the fridge for a week.


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